The Minimum Legal Drinking Age
Summit County High School
THE MINIMUM LEGAL DRINKING AGE
This paper includes the view of why the drinking age should be lowered to eighteen. It has several points and fats to explain the reasoning of this opinion. It goes into depth of how it is affecting the youth, the future, and statistics and how lowering the age can make a positive change for everyone.
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The Minimum Legal Drinking Age
Do we, or do we not lower the drinking age in The United States from twenty one to eighteen? In 1984 U.S Congress put pressure on individual states to raise the drinking age to twenty one and the states who didn't pass the law and kept the minimum drinking age under twenty one would loose millions of dollars in federal highway funds (“Drinking Age...”). The National Minimum Drinking Age Act has not prevented teens from drinking (“Drinking Age...”). In fact, it has propelled our underage youth to binge drink and has justly pressured them to drink in uncontrolled environments, exposing them the dangerous situations. Fox News reported a study in 2011 that 72.5% of our country’s high school students have consumed alcohol; these children feel forced by law to drink “underground” (“Report: Nearly Half...”). Is this what we want?
Once an American turns eighteen they are considered to be an adult in the United States . These eighteen year olds are expected to abide by all of the obligations and responsibilities that come with adulthood. They are entitled because they are thought to have the intelligence and experience to vote, smoke cigarettes, serve on juries, get married, sign legally binding contracts, join the military and fight for our country and as an adult, can be prosecuted. Eighteen is the age when life decisions are made. Some of these decisions can be life changing and potentially risky; so why not have the right to choose whether to consume alcohol or not? As an adult, the legal consequences of drinking are known, including the short term and long term health and legal affects. If our country lowered the drinking age from twenty one to eighteen it would make it more familiar and provide more time and experience to those who are entering careers and making pivotal life decisions instead of experiencing their first drink. Many eighteen year olds are starting college and are going to experiment with alcohol. It is the beginning of adulthood and should be legal.
82% of college students under the age of twenty one drink regardless of the law (“SADD Statistics...”). Setting the legal drinking age at twenty one is very ineffective because minors still drink although the law prohibits it. Statistics prove 26.4% of children between the ages of twelve and twenty have used alcohol and among that same group, 17.4% were binge drinking (“SADD Statistics...”). These facts prove a large portion of our youth consume alcohol even though they are not of age. That said, teenagers who drink underage have a fear of being caught, this leads to make poor decisions and drinking in unsafe and unsupervised environments such as basements, fraternity houses and locked dorm rooms. “All places in which kids go to hide from the law and from adults, including parents, who might be able to teach them moderation.” “This law in fact hasn't reduced or eliminated drinking at all, it simply has driven it underground, behind closed doors, into the most risky and least manageable of settings” (“The Debate on Lowering...”). Each year, approximately five thousand young Americans die from vehicular accidents, suicide, over consumption and homicide while drinking underage (“Underage Drinking...”). A large portion of that shocking number is a direct result of our youth being pressured to drinking in places that are unsafe and the price can be death. In our country, of the five thousand young people that die each year from underage drinking, nearly two thousand are from vehicle crashes (“Underage Drinking...”). In other countries where the legal drinking age is eighteen, it’s been proven that their drunk driving statistics are lower than that of the United States. There are nearly two hundred countries in the world; the majority's drinking age is eighteen. Only a handful, which includes The United States, Fiji, Pakistan, Palau, Anasri and Lanka, has the age designated at twenty one (David). THE MINIMUM LEGAL DRINKING AGE 5
Some countries have no drinking age at all; others are from sixteen, seventeen and twenty. For example, in Germany the drinking age is eighteen but one only has to be sixteen to drink beer and wine. “The results of a study presented in Berlin show that German youths are drinking less. According to a federal study, over the past thirty years, alcohol consumption among German teens has dropped by half. Although officials view the results as largely positive, concern remains about youth binge drinking. Recently the Federal Center for Health Education said around 13% of adolescents between the ages of twelve and seventeen consumed some form of alcohol at least once per week, compared to 21% in 2004 and 25% in 1979. Young adults between the age of eighteen and twenty five also showed reductions in alcohol consumption, with only 35% drinking once per week compared to 67% in 1973.” (“German Underage Drinking...”)
Although, not in every drinking incident around the world results in a death, injury, or arrest, it is estimated that only two out of every one thousand illegal drinking incident by youth who are under the age of twenty one does result in an arrest (“Drinking Age...”). It seems the penalty of underage drinking is largely ignored and not enforced as it should be. Chief Beckner says that even though they do try and enforce it, it just does not seem to be effective (“The Debate on Lowering...”). The youth of American find several ways to get around the twenty one year old limit whether it’s a fake ID or finding a person of age to buy for them. As McCardell puts it, “it's so widespread, it’s practically the norm these days” (“The Debate on Lowering...”).
This young generation is rebelling and reforming what is supposed to be the social norm. Rebelling against the laws of alcohol put into place to protect them, but a law that has failed them. Yes, teens rebel, but this THE MINIMUM LEGAL DRINKING AGE 6
generation is doing it together, the numbers prove that. They want independence from this law and are raising important questions about the drinking age. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds.” This generation may not be speaking out with words or their hands, but they are speaking out with their actions and minds regarding the drinking age. The youth do not agree with what the law states and so they are rebelling against it and finding ways around it, trying to prove the point that the drinking age means nothing to them.
Consider if the drinking age was lowered to eighteen. Would it aid in improving our economy? With eighteen year olds legally permitted to drink in the United States, they would be able to go to bars and restaurants and drink, which would help the businesses in our country. This would eliminate the danger of teenagers feeling it necessary to drink in unsafe environments and would allow them to be surrounded by others who are older, more experienced and who can provide sound advice as role models and who can lead by example. Some states, including Colorado, allow underage drinking in safe private non-selling alcohol environments with the consent of a parent or guardian as long as an adult is on site (David). Forty of our states have made exceptions that allow for underage drinking in certain situations and places (David). This doesn’t give bars and restaurants extra income, but it does provide a safe place for these children who are trying to establish a better, safer place to grow and safety should be our number one priority.
There are pros and cons to every important decision and debate. But, what should always be weighed the heaviest is the safety of children. Forcing the youth of our country to drink in unsafe and uncontrolled environments due to the current age limit for drinking is like throwing THE MINIMUM LEGAL DRINKING AGE 7
them off a cliff without a rope. We need to open the door and provide them with knowledge, support and a safe haven. If 82% of underage college students and over 72% of our high-schoolers are drinking we need to change the law (“SADD Statistics...”). This law clearly does not have the results that were expected and the children are at risk. If we don't make a change soon, things will continue to deteriorate. Children are our future.
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“Should the drinking age be lowered from 21 to a younger age?” (11 October 2012). Retrieved
"German Underage Drinking Cut by Half in Last 30 Years." (29 June 2009). Retrieved from http://www.aim-digest.com/gateway/pages/S&P%20Alcohol%20and%20young